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A Good County Executive Is Hard To Find

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on January 5, 2011

Six weeks ago, I took a preliminary look at the potential field of candidates for Milwaukee County Executive. It was a heady time, when people were looking forward to starting to heal after a decade of abuse and neglect.

But then, a couple of weeks ago, Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that philanthropist Chris Abele was going to get into the race. This bombshell of an announcement changed the entire landscape of the race, but not necessarily for the better. Abele is a multimillionaire who also runs a multimillionaire charity group called the Argosy Foundation.
Abele is known not just for his charity work, but is also a contributor to many political campaigns, with the vast majority of his beneficiaries being Democrats. It was reported that Abele was ready and willing to drop at least one million of his own money to fund his campaign, and that he was hoping to raise another half a million in donations.
When is candidacy became known, other candidates, mostly from the left side of the aisle, started dropping out like flies. Sheldon Wasserman said he wasn’t going to run. John Weishan said he wasn’t going to run. Joe Czarnezki dropped out. Johnny Thomas dropped out.Sue Black never really got in before she got out. Dan Diliberti dropped out. Marina Dimitrijevic, whom I thought to be one of the best candidates, dropped out.
A few notables either chose to stay in or join in the race despite Abele’s presence. These include Republican Jeff Stone, Jim Sullivan and Lee Holloway. There is also a field of a half a dozen or so lesser known names, including the controversial Ieshuh Griffin, who apparently can’t make up her mind what she wants to run for.
When one looks at the four better known candidates, one finds that it leaves a lot to be desired.
Chris Abele
Chris Abele, who only made his formal announcement this afternoon, is really starting off on the wrong foot. Outside of being a millionaire by the graces of good inheritance, there is little know about him. He makes only vague statements of “bold and innovative reform,” but won’t offer anything of substance. Even his website is devoid of any information and is utterly useless unless one is in the habit of donating to or volunteering for a candidate just for the heck of it.
Abele also has some questionable allies, namely Sheldon Lubar, who is a strong advocate for the wholesale destruction of Milwaukee County, even though this would only serve to raise taxes and greatly reduce services. Lubar said that he is supporting Abele because “Chris and I agree that there are some specific changes that are needed, and we have a man who’s governor who knows what they are better than anyone else.”
Abele did tell the media today that he is open to further privatization (read higher taxes for lesser quality service). He also mentioned that the would consider consolidating services with other municipalities, which is not as bad. He did also say that he was opposed to the sales tax to bolster the parks and the transit systems, but offers no other solutions on how to stop their slow deaths.
I also find it more than a little off-putting that a candidate that won’t present any stances on any issues, is personally wealthy, and possibly wants to finish the destruction that Walker had started would send out mass emails begging for money, especially to those he would harm the most.
Until Abele can come up with something, anything, that would let people know where he stands, and if that thing is polar of what the signs indicate about him, he is not really worth consideration for county executive.
Jeff Stone
Stone is currently a Republican in the State Assembly for the Greendale area. He is also Scott Walker’s chosen heir apparent. Stonereturns the love by saying that he would continue where Walker left off, namely, bankrupting and killing off the county, regardless of how many people it hurts or even kills. But lacking even as much as Walker’s vanilla personality, Stone is more like Walker Lite than anything else.
Stone’s only claim to fame is the failed attempt at a back door privatization of the airport. Stone, backed up by the conservative paper, make claim that he never tried to privatize the airport. he only wanted to take control of it away from the county and give it to a private entity. Yeah, that’s a big difference. That’s like saying he wasn’t driving a car, he was driving an automobile.
With the county literally crumbling around us, we don’t need a guy who would only try to exasperate the problems we are currently facing.
It will be interesting to see how Stone does in the race though. He has Scott Walker’s war machine which is still running from the November elections. However, Walker has become so unpopular on a local level that he lost Milwaukee County in that election by a 62-38 margin. I don’t see how a Walker wannabe will fare much better.
Jim Sullivan
Sullivan is the former State Senator for the Wauwatosa area. While in the Senate, he did a few good things, like giving Wisconsin an uniform policy against smoking in work places. But despite his good deeds, he still managed to lose to Leah Vukmir in November’s election. That is not an easy task, even with the Republican surge across the state.
However, there is reason to doubt Sullivan’s worthiness to run the county, since he was also a player in making a push for the sale and pillaging of the county grounds, endangering one of Milwaukee County’s greatest treasures, namely the Monarch Trail. Not only that, but this gift to the private land developers will now cost Tosa residents$12 million in the form of a TIF. That is something that can’t be popular in the current political climate.
Sullivan could have be a good candidate, but he doesn’t have much time to ensure which candidate he is going to be.
Lee Holloway
It is nearly impossible to living in Milwaukee County and not know whoLee Holloway is. Holloway is the Chair of the Milwaukee County Board, and at the moment, he is also the interim County Executive. Holloway says a lot of the right things, such as how he wants to make the county grow, get a dedicated funding source for the transit system and the restoration of full service at the airport.
However, during the last few years, Holloway has repeatedly let the county down. When he’s had the opportunity to stand against Walker and Walker’s path of destruction, Holloway had instead chosen to stand side by side with Walker. Not only did he fail to protect the county and its tax payers, but he gave Walker a handy foil to push the blame at when things went sour, as they inevitably would.
Holloway also has the issue of his private property and his failure to maintain them properly. To make things even worse, these properties are the homes of people with chronic mental health problems. He already lacked a lot of support in the suburbs, and this has alienated a lot of the city voters and the black community.
What Milwaukee County really needs is a strong leader with bold, progressive ideas of how to re-establish the county as a leader after a decade of one scandal after another, and one detrimental decision after another. It needs someone who would work hard to restore the transit system, reverse the decline of the parks and strengthen the safety net for its most vulnerable citizens.
It also looks like Milwaukee County will have to wait another year before it might have that person.

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